Published Jun 02, 2011Sasquatch! celebrated its tenth anniversary in style, adding an extra day to accommodate more than 100 bands, comedians and DJs on its four stages. The festival's chill vibe is partially credited to the abundance of Canadian patrons, their numbers obvious this year thanks to a sea of Canucks jerseys, but the consistent quality of the lineup, the continually improving infrastructure and the awe-inspiring views of the Columbia River Gorge play no small part in making Sasquatch! one of the best yearly festivals running. Musically, this year's lineup explored the borders between genres and countries, featuring a blend of funk, pop, new wave, alt-country and a whole slew of electronic music.
Pepper Rabbit impressed with their interesting sound, blending psychedelic, downtempo, orchestral and lo-fi pop elements into an indie rock aesthetic, with endearing frontman Xander Singh profusely apologizing and thanking the crowd between songs.
At a neighbouring stage, with a polar opposite sound, the Secret Sisters delivered authentic vintage country. Laura and Lydia Rogers shared a guitar as they harmonized gorgeously over covers of Hank Williams and Willie Nelson and equally rich originals, showing their respect for history and overall kindness in their banter.
Showing no attempt to endear himself to anyone, Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst came out with his hoodie pulled over his face, lurking around the stage like an MC, spitting into the mic and occasionally into the photo pit. Oberst is an intense individual who barely contains his performance and cultural anxiety, bubbling over into brutal rants on the internet (which he calls "the pig") and the altogether sad situation of Osama Bin Laden's death.
Comedy came up big this year, as Hari Kondabolu surprised with a righteous and relevant set of pop and racially charged humour, playing to the crowd as he read a Carlin-esque list of people who will die in the revolution dedicated to the memory recently deceased poet/musician Gil Scott-Heron. Next up, the provocative language and witty piano-based songs of Tim Minchin gave the crowd as many politically incorrect punch lines as intelligent talking points. But, with his pinky nails decorated and afro massive, Reggie Watts was the comedian to see, receiving a standing ovation from Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips for the stream-of-consciousness musings set over bass-heavy beatbox loop that Watts recorded, mixed, and tweaked on the fly. Unfortunately, the comedy bar was a little too high for the Trailer Park Boys' brand of profane, thoughtless idiocy. Bubbles deserves a medal for attempting to drag Ricky and Julian's dead weight through tired film and game-show parodies segued by cheap videos.
At the main stage, the Flaming Lips blew minds with their opening antics. The initial buzz from Coyne's crowd bubble, confetti cannons, streamer spud guns, big-screen videos and ecstatically dancing girls geared down as they covered their seminal album Soft Bulletin between Coyne's notoriously lengthy ramblings.
Closing out the third night, the sizzling synths and bone-crushing guitars of NYC indie electronic duo Ratatat more than kept up with their warped '80s visuals, delivering the highlight performance of the day.
Dance punk frontrunners !!! blitzed strobe lights in the mid-afternoon twilight, but nothing could distract from the thrusting, hammy gyrations of vocalist Nic Offer. His short-shorts and sweaty mop disappeared into the crowd several times, posing for the photographers and generally making life miserable for security. He may not be overly talented, but he performs like everybody is watching, and he makes everyone oblige.
Mexican vegan duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, however, didn't need hammy gyrations or confetti canons as they strummed, struck and picked their acoustic guitars with lightning speed and a display of massive talent.
Taking trips back in time, Portland's Pink Martini and Brooklyn's Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings provided breakout sets of classical, world lounge music and soulful funk, respectively. Breathtaking diva Storm Large sang jazz standards in Turkish, Spanish, and English for Pink Martini, the only performer that could have taken attention away from flamboyant pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale and the bandleader's dozen-piece orchestra. On the last afternoon, Sharon Jones's natural, unrelenting intensity squeezed every drop of funk out of her Dap-Kings.
On the final afternoon, Chromeo gave the main stage what it wanted, as the Montreal duo's brand of '80s electro-funk, complete with a chorus trio of Robert Palmer girls, created waves of enthusiastic dancing, complete with a collection of inflatable pool animals bouncing overhead.